New childcare program shows early signs of success
Recreation Department links before- and after-school program to academics
Whitefish Bay — The Whitefish Bay School District's new childcare program is gaining momentum.
The district is now offering before- and after-school care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade through Whitefish Bay Recreation and Community Education. It kicked off Sept. 3.
To the dismay of some parents, the School Board in February severed ties with Milestones, a nonprofit organization that provided care in Cumberland and Richards elementary schools through a contract to use district facilities. The board chose to not renew the contract for the current school year and offer an in-house before- and after-school care program in its wake.
The School District had anticipated that 150 to 160 students would use the program, similar to Milestones. As of last week, there were 172 children enrolled with new students signing up almost every day, said Katie Hundley, program site director at Richards Elementary. The district has hired 14 new staff members and two site directors to run the program.
It was not created to be a revenue-generator, school officials said. Rather, it was meant to create a link between the classroom and the childcare program while utilizing School District resources, said Carin Keland, Whitefish Bay Recreation and Community Education director, who spearheaded the program's development.
Playing to learn
Though it is not considered an academic program, the activities piggyback what's happening in the classroom.
"It's playing with a purpose," Hundley said. "We can incorporate some of the things they are learning in school into what we do."
Richards and Cumberland provide care for children from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday. Activities are tailored to the different age groups, which is particularly important before and after the regular school day hours when there are students in first through fifth grades. During the day, children who attend morning or afternoon kindergarten participate in the program.
Every two weeks there is a different theme with activities centered around that theme. The activities do not mirror the classroom, they "link" to it. For example, the first theme was "all about me." So, kindergarteners learning the alphabet in the classroom would have to come up with a word starting with "z" to describe themselves when participating in the before- and after-school program.
After-school tutoring with elementary teachers is also offered for students in first through fifth grade, which is an added bonus, Hundley said.
In-house program offers flexibility
The program gives students the ability to use all of the school resources such as the gym, the library media center and the cafeteria. All of the activities are optional.
"We want this to be a fun program for them, we know they have been in school all day," Hundley said.
The program extends beyond teaching the ABCs. Program Site Director at Cumberland Elementary Martha Fleck said, for example, they focus a lot on conversational learning.
"To me, especially at the kindergarten age, which is what I did teach before, they just need to learn how to be friends, to be social, how to ask politely and when to ask for help," Fleck said.
Having an on-site program also creates cohesion, she said. Program staff can work with the teachers and better address things such as behavioral issues.
"We wouldn't be able to do that if we weren't School District employees," Fleck said.
For information on the program, visit wfbschools.com.
AT A GLANCE
WHAT: Before and After School Program
WHEN: 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday
WHERE: Cumberland and Richards Elementary schools
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